Article

Oligopoly under Incomplete Information: On the Welfare Effects of Price Discrimination

Daniel F. Garrett, Renato Gomes, and Lucas Maestri

Abstract

We study competition by firms that simultaneously post (potentially nonlinear) taris to consumers who are privately informed about their tastes. Market power stems from informational frictions, in that consumers are heterogeneously informed about firms' oers. In the absence of regulation, all firms oer quantity discounts. As a result, relative to Bertrand pricing, imperfect competition benefits disproportionately more consumers whose willingness to pay is high, rather than low. Regulation imposing linear pricing hurts the former but benefits the latter consumers. While consumer surplus increases, firms' profits decrease, enough to drive down utilitarian welfare. By contrast, improvements in market transparency increase utilitarian welfare, and achieve similar gains on consumer surplus as imposing linear pricing, although with limited distributive impact. On normative grounds, our analysis suggests that banning price discrimination is warranted only if its distributive benefits have a weight on the societal objective.

Keywords

oligopoly; nonlinear pricing; linear pricing; informational frictions; asymmetric information;

JEL codes

  • D82: Asymmetric and Private Information • Mechanism Design

Reference

Daniel F. Garrett, Renato Gomes, and Lucas Maestri, Oligopoly under Incomplete Information: On the Welfare Effects of Price Discrimination, International Journal of Industrial Organization, 2021, 32 pages, forthcoming.

Published in

International Journal of Industrial Organization, 2021, 32 pages, forthcoming